As of April 1, 2022, Toronto Public Health is no longer providing Preschool Speech and Language, Blind-Low Vision and Infant Hearing programs. These programs have moved from Toronto Public Health to Surrey Place. To make a referral or for more information, please contact Surrey Place at 416-925-5141. Learn more about this change.

All babies in Ontario are offered free hearing screening at birth. If you live in Toronto and you think your baby needs a hearing screen, contact Surrey Place for information and booking.

 

Our ears and brain work together to hear sounds and spoken language. Sounds made by objects and people travel as waves through the air. When these sound waves reach our ears, they are changed into nerve signals that are sent to our brains. The brain interprets these nerve signals as different sounds that we hear.

Hearing begins to develop while babies are still in the womb. Around the 18th week of pregnancy, growing babies can already hear sounds inside the body, like your heartbeat. Around six to seven months of pregnancy babies can begin to hear sounds outside of the body, including your voice. This is a great time to read, sing and talk to your baby! When you talk to your baby in the womb, they will become familiar with those songs and stories, and they will recognize your voice when they are born. These familiar songs, stories and voices will bring comfort to your baby and help build positive parent-child attachment.

The first months and years of your child’s life are very important for developing language. Over the first 12 months of a baby’s life, they will learn to understand language, imitate gestures and sounds and express their needs in many different ways. Hearing and ear health are important for developing spoken language. Even mild hearing loss can lead to delays in spoken language development. The only way to know if your child has a hearing loss is by having their hearing tested.

Universal Newborn Hearing Screening

Universal newborn hearing screening is an important step to detect hearing loss as early as possible and connect families to programs and resources, when needed. In Ontario, all babies are eligible for free hearing screening when they are born. Certain medical and genetic risk factors for permanent hearing loss are also tested through Newborn Screening Ontario.

If you live in Toronto and your baby did not have their hearing screened at birth, or if they need a follow-up test, please contact Surrey Place.

The technology used for newborn hearing screening is safe and will not hurt your baby. At the appointment, a small earpiece is placed in your baby’s ear. The earpiece plays soft sounds in your baby’s ears and measures the ear and brain’s response to those sounds. Small stickers (electrodes) may also be placed on your baby’s head to measure the brain’s response to different sounds.

A sleeping newborn baby receiving a newborn hearing screen without sticker electrodes.
A sleeping newborn baby receiving a newborn hearing screen without sticker electrodes.
A sleeping newborn baby receiving a newborn hearing screen with sticker electrodes.
A sleeping newborn baby receiving a newborn hearing screen with sticker electrodes.

Audiology Services

If your baby did not receive a hearing screen when they were born, or if you think your child may have a hearing loss, have your baby’s hearing tested by a registered audiologist. You can contact your baby’s doctor for a referral or visit the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario to find an audiologist.

You will want to make sure that the audiologist is used to working with young children. Some hearing tests may be covered by OHIP, with a doctor’s referral. Contact an audiology clinic for more information.
Audiologists test hearing and ear health in many ways. Different tests are used depending on the age of your child, but may include:

  • Placing a small earphone in the child’s ear to measure how the ear and brain respond to those sounds.
  • Measuring brain activity in response to sounds played in each ear, using small electrodes placed on the child’s head.
  • Evaluating how your child responds to sounds, by turning their head or raising their hand.

Who to Contact for Help

If you are concerned about your child’s hearing, have your baby’s hearing tested by a registered audiologist. Contact your baby’s doctor for a referral or visit the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario to find an audiologist.

The Infant Hearing Program in Ontario provides services to children with permanent hearing loss, and their families. To access these services in Toronto, contact Surrey Place.

For more information about your child’s development or behaviour and would like to talk to a Public Health Nurse, please contact us at 416-338-7600 or chat live.